National tragedies in Las Vegas, Puerto Rico command our attention

By on October 2, 2017 with 14 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

A note about Las Vegas and gun violence: Our hearts at The HSUS are heavy in the wake of the unfathomable killing and wounding of more than 500 people in the nation’s biggest-ever mass shooting. This latest slaughter of our fellow citizens, enabled by a combination of a deranged person and the high-capacity weapons he turned on innocents, underscores the severity of the gun violence epidemic in our country. Your HSUS has been actively opposing in Congress the Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, which was approved by a key committee just two weeks ago and is now ready for floor action in the full House of Representatives. The bill is a grab bag of extreme allowances for the gun and ammunition industry and the trophy hunting lobby. The bill has more than a half dozen despicable wildlife killing provisions, including one to allow trophy hunting of grizzly bears and wolves on millions of acres of National Park Service lands in Alaska. The measure also forbids the federal government from restricting poisonous lead ammunition. And it provides for the rollback of an 80-year-old law that restricts the sale of silencers. Silencers are a great tool for people who want to conceal their killing of people or animals. Maybe this incident, which every civilized person abhors, will prompt lawmakers to take a serious look at the entire series of shameful provisions in the bill and step back from the brink.

There is hardship and suffering in Puerto Rico, for people and animals. The HSUS and Humane Society International are responding to this crisis with vigor and seriousness. We’ve already delivered more than 25,000 pounds of humanitarian assistance, with the New York Times today noting that many of the supplies we’ve helped to provide are for people. For us, this is a natural instinct — we seek to alleviate suffering and to fight cruelty, and clearly people are suffering throughout Puerto Rico. And in practical terms, it is the people of Puerto Rico who are best suited to deliver food and care to animals in need in their homes and communities, and if those people cannot meet life’s necessities, then the animals around them will suffer extra hardships. The people of Puerto Rico are United States citizens, and this is a time of great need for them, and we as a nation must rally around them. I am committed, as president and CEO of The HSUS, to do our best to respond to the crisis and to offer robust assistance that meets the needs of the people and the animals.

For several days now, we’ve had a team on the ground in Vieques, where The HSUS had some time ago launched a humane management program for the island’s 2,000 or so free-roaming horses. This winter, we contracepted over 280 horses, as a means of limiting fertility on the small island, where the horses are cherished but where there is a very limited land area and forage for them. Our team on the ground has confirmed that some horses lost their lives, killed by storm surges or injury from debris, and a fair number of animals require medical attention. But the vast majority of the horses appear to have survived the storm. We are providing them with supplemental food because the trees have been stripped bare and forage and fresh water are scarce, and we’ll provide as much medical care as possible. Dr. Dickie Vest, an equine veterinarian from our Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, is helping to lead the response there, with wildlife handling and response experts Dave Pauli and John Peaveler. With the help of local citizens, our team is also caring for dozens of dogs, cats, and other animals at a mobile clinic they established to provide ongoing medical assistance for owned animals that people are desperate to get care for.

Our team on the ground has confirmed that some horses in Vieques lost their lives, killed by storm surges or injury from debris, and a fair number of animals require medical attention. But the vast majority of the horses appear to have survived the storm. Photo by Dennis M. Rivera Pichardo/AP Images for The HSUS

On the main island, we have an assessment team, almost all Spanish speakers and veterinarians, who are pinpointing where additional resources are needed. We intend to work with as many shelters and rescues on the island as possible, and to transport their shelter animals from the island to St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Shelter in Madison, New Jersey. St. Hubert’s is one of our top Emergency Placement Partners, and we’ll work with its staff members to ready the animals for distribution to other placement partners around the nation. We’ve already flown 200 animals to St. Hubert’s, and we expect to move as many animals as we can from shelters by aircraft.

We’ll also work diligently to help animals on the streets who are in distress, and to provide food and emergency care to them. Many of these Sato dogs, as they are known, are community animals, and with circumstances so disrupted and dire, their human support network is in tatters.

We are partnering with the Humane Society of Broward County and our own affiliate, the South Florida Wildlife Center, to operate an intake and distribution center in south Florida as a launching point for humanitarian and animal relief items directed to Puerto Rico. We’ll be working with our partners, including Wings of Rescue and, to deliver these supplies in the days and weeks ahead. We’ve had an amazing set of donors, including Whole Foods Market, WellPet, Petco, Halo, Rescue Bank, and others, that have stepped up with enormous amounts of supplies that we’ll continue to deliver to the islands.

We are quite sure we’ll find other crisis situations for animals and people on the ground, and we’ll do our best to respond to these circumstances, as possible. Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló has asked for our leadership in the identification and fulfillment of animal needs. That came about because of our deep ties on the island. For the last three years, we’ve been implementing our Humane Puerto Rico program, led by Humane State Senior Director Tara Loller and our Puerto Rico director Yolanda Alvarez. This program has been designed to lift the circumstances for animals and the people who care about them on the main island and also in Vieques, and we’re going to double down during this time of crisis for people and animals and support them in the trying times ahead in this battered region of the United States.

P.S. The Humane Society International team continues its lifesaving work in areas of Mexico hit by two earthquakes over the past few weeks. Our team, including veterinarians, has so far provided medical services to more than 3,500 injured animals, including cats and dogs, with 669 animals helped in Mexico City and the state of Puebla just over this past weekend.


Animal Rescue and Care, Companion Animals, Equine, Humane Society International

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  1. Annoula Wylderich says:

    Thank you, Wayne. Our Las Vegas community is reeling from the shock of this violent act; but responders and citizens are coming together to lend their support to victims. Violence against any being, whether human or non, represents such a total disrespect for life and underscores one main common thread that we all share: the desire to live. I hope that folks who are learning about the Las Vegas tragedy will also think about the animals who are victimized every single day and don’t often get the news coverage that humans do. All lives matter. Thank you for focusing attention upon our community as we attempt to recover, and for all that HSUS does on behalf of other species.

  2. Anita Venturi says:

    Yes very good.

  3. Charlene says:

    I do hope Dead Dog Beach never comes to be again; the hundreds of thousands of feral dogs/cats who died during the hurricane speaks volumes about the need to educate the citizens about spaying/neutering and offering free and low-cost spaying/neutering.

    • Regina Massaro says:

      Jennifer Lopez and others who are now advocating for residents in Puerto Rico. Where the hell have you been for years when dogs/cats were dying in Puerto Rico the result of irresponsible ownership. Did any of the thousands of tourists notice these unfortunate creatures when they lay on the beach with a drink in their hand? My sympathy is for the animals during this difficult time. When rebuilding Puerto Rico – rebuild a humane life for the animals. Sickening and Disgraceful. Would not step on foot on Puerto Rico soil or spend a penny on tourism. SHAME ON ALL WHO ARE RESPONSIBLE, SHAME!

      • Joan Escuriex says:

        TO: Regina Massaro: True, well known movie stars and actors have more money and pull to help unfortunate animals in places like Puerto Rico; these tragedies exist in many other locales where poverty abounds and residents do not extend finances nor proper care to animals as the people themselves need so much. Since you will not spend money on tourism, nor step foot on Puerto Rican soil, I presume you personally will do nothing to help rebuild humane conditions for the suffering animals there you claim to passionately care about and feel dignified to shame others for their lack. I am hoping your care and passion for the animals might spark you to donate for the “rebuilding a humane life” you mention; If that’s the case, thank you!

  4. Frances Twiss says:

    You have a wonderful heart for all animals. Thank you for being on their side, and for informing us of the possible awful legislation, and for news of the welfare of the animals and people in Puerto Rico and in Las Vegas.

  5. Marilyn Overton says:

    Thank you and God bless you for caring for animals. You are my heroes!

    I send you my admiration, appreciation, and love.

    Best regards,
    Marilyn Overton

  6. Gail says:

    Thank God for your wonderful organization and all of the volunteers. I have donated the max I can afford right now and wish I could do more. I have visited most of the areas that have suffered this year and it is heartbreaking to see the devastation. Our visits to Puerto Rico were some of our most memorable. I did not, however feel at the time we were there that they were very considerate of their animals. Hopefully that has changed. Although I hate to see any suffering, at least humans can understand what is happening and hopefully take action to protect themselves. Animals do not have this understanding. They are more like little children. Bless them all and thank you so much for being there for them.

  7. Mrs. Edith Bradley says:

    I support only the HSUS, probably for the last few years. I am one of those people, that makes a commitment to one organization. My initial purpose, was to support the Anti Cruelty Task Force, plus helping animals in general.
    This then evolved into more support, because of some of the things I witnessed in person. As with any human ( unless they are taking other human lives ), animals deserve people to defend & help them. Right now, there is an immediate need for help because of these horrible disasters. I know in my heart, that the HSUS will do everything they possibly can.
    I want to thank EVERYONE for rescuing the animals, and also reuniting them with their owners. I am also very emotional & sensitive – the abuse that I happen to see, angers me and makes me incredibly sad. There are times when I like animals more than people. So, THANK YOU HSUS.

  8. Elaina says:

    I would like to give my extreme and heartfelt “thanks” to all of the people and agencies who are stepping in the mud, muck, and a dearth of supplies to actively show their belief for the uncountable ways in that animals touch our lives. I have decided to increase my monthly donation by $10.00 each month to both HSUS and other animal care organizations I sponsor. That extra $120 per year will make a difference, and I am sending out a heartfelt wish that people who not only give regularly and in crisis situations increase their monthly gift by even $1.00 per month. When one, then hundreds, then thousands increase their monthly gift these critical rescue organizations will be prepared to have more veterinary supplies, crates, food, emergency medical supplies and things it is hard for a person not involved in the search, rescue, and emergency medical care on hand that the ones of us who are fortunate enough not to have been directly affected (and I cannot imagine a person not being emotionally affected) such as colored collars indicating a specific injury or needing specific care for infection or pregnancy. I could use that yearly increase of $120.00 to purchase a new bed and toys for my dog, however when it is added to the extra $12.00 yearly from another designated donor, and to another $5.00 per month ($60.00 per year) it becomes easy to give up on that morning cup of coffee or pastry it will have a huge impact on the spectacular work all of the HSUS employees, volunteers, and every other person who bent down to gently pet who had been physically and emotionally traumatized, and that touch will be held in that animal’s body memory, and in the mind of the person who was kind enough to give 10 or 15 minutes in an attempt to calm these spectacular animals.
    So, HSUS, ASAPCA, and every single person who put in their effort to care for these loving animals, I salute you, and I will give my Service Dog who does so much for me that I am able to live on my own, an extra special hug and longer walk, but not an extra biscut.

  9. Barbara Jantzen says:

    Thank you so much Wayne Pacelle and the Humane Society and yoiur teams. I am sure Puerto Rico is very appreciative of how you and the Humane Society are providing tremendous help during this crisis.
    Please bring the “sato dogs” and stray cats as well into no kill shelters so they can be adopted into loving homes. Yes they will need to be worked with but they deserve families who will provide the love, attention and necessities that they need. No animal should be left behind .. thank you!!

  10. Lynn Silverman says:

    I’ve been a supporter and follower for a very long time being a lover of animals I commend all of you that helped and contributed to better these animals lives . They give us so much in our personal lives that we all should give back as much as we can to them. I would like to know a way that an older woman can help with her time

  11. Tracey Janssen says:

    Thank you so very much for all of the email updates. Reading about the wonderful work the HSUS is doing is a bright light in my day, and most days I have tears of sadness and joy in my eyes. The good deeds that all of you are doing bring hope to a world filled with so much sadness. Thank you!!

  12. Wendy Vandenbrock says:

    Thank you so very much Wayne Pacelle and your Humane Society teams for rescuing and taking care of all these animals. I hope that each animal finds a loving home and given a second chance. Shelter pets make the best pets!

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